Experiential Knowing

Nondual Consciousness

Experiential Knowing
Monday, August 15, 2016

The brilliant word “non-duality” (advaita in Sanskrit) was used by many in different traditions in the East to distinguish any notion of union from total absorption or enmeshment: “Not entirely one, but not two either.” Facing some of the same challenges of modern-day ecology and quantum physics, they did not want to say that all things were metaphysically or physically identical, nor did they want to separate and disconnect everything in any absolute sense. In effect, the contemplative mind withholds from labeling or categorizing things too quickly (i.e., judging), so it can come to see things in themselves and as themselves, in their uniqueness—apart from the words or concepts that become their substitutes.

Humans tend to think that because they agree or disagree with the idea of a thing, they have realistically encountered the thing itself. Not at all true, says the contemplative. To know something you must encounter the thing in itself. “Presence” is my word for this encounter, a different way of knowing and touching the moment. It is a much more vulnerable way of knowing; it leaves us without a sense of full control. The Apostle Thomas had his idea of Jesus, but had to trustfully put his finger into his side before he could know the true Jesus (John 20:27). Such nondual, panoramic, and deeper seeing requires a lot of practice, but the rewards are superb and, I believe, necessary for both joy and truth in this world.

Presence is experienced in a participative way, not by thinking about it. The mind, by nature, is intent on judging, controlling, and analyzing instead of seeing, tasting, and loving. This is exactly why the mind cannot be present or live in the naked now. The mind wants a job and believes that its job is to process things by its own criteria. The key to stopping this obsessive game is, quite simply, peace, silence, or stillness. Silence is God’s primary language; “everything else is a poor translation,” as Fr. Thomas Keating wisely observes. [1] Please think about that and how it is true.

Gateway to Silence:
Be here now.

References:
[1] Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation (Bloomsbury Publishing: 2012), 105.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 35, 54.

Image Credit: The Incredulity of St. Thomas (detail), by Caravaggio, 1601-1602, Sanssouci, Potsdam.
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